4.5 bloody stars
The true horror of this novel has nothing to do with the gore or the slashers. This was deceptively stunning.
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Plot layers: ★★★★★
Overall impact: ★★★★★
Oof. How do I review this one. On the one hand, I want to start with the hard spoilers and work my way backward because I haven't see many reviews addressing the elements that I want to talk about. But on the other hand, half of this novel's brilliance comes from the reveals and final steps.
I guess we'll see how this goes.
My Heart is a Chainsaw was stunning. I had to read it roughly 1.5 times to get to this 5 star rating—let me explain. For the first third, I was NOT feeling the story. As someone who hated Catcher in the Rye for Holden's annoying internal monologues and meandering prose, the main character of Chainsaw, Jade, fit that bill too closely for my tastes. I wanted to reach into the pages and "make her stay on track, dang it!" Lots of pop culture slasher references, meandering thoughts, unlikeable character traits, the whole nine yards and then some.
But then some reveals hit us around 1/3-1/2 mark, and I was floored. Absolutely floored.
So now, at the halfway point of the novel for the first read, I went back to the beginning. I needed to see what I'd missed and see how the author had gotten us here—because clearly Jade had done what she'd intended to do... which was hide the truth from us and herself.
So let's just say that if you're not feeling Jade or the pacing of the novel on your first read, you're not alone. But it is disturbingly worth it.
This is a novel filled with guts and gore and slashers and horror. Not a single review disputes that. But it's also about Jade. It's about what she's not saying and not addressing—and yet putting in these pages like Morse code. It's about the true horror behind the curtain and the mind's way of (not) coping with reality. It's about our fantasies, our dreams deferred turned dark and deep, our use of pop culture to explain our present and idealize our future.
To touch on the surface plot for a bit, I found the slasher elements of this novel to be interesting. As someone who loves new horror trends and never quite got into the old-school slashers that Jade loves to reference, I didn't find it hard to follow. Maybe a bit heavy-handed, but isn't that the mode of the slasher in the first place?
I'm giving this five stars for Stephen Graham Jones' stunning interplay between surface plot and subplot, and his way of taking the familiar "outside" horror that we see in the movies and using it as a mask for the darker, intimate horrors that cut deeper.
A strong novel with a bleak outlook on truth and life and personhood, this is one that will linger with me for a long time.
Thank you to Gallery Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
This had a bit of an odd start, but once it got going this turned into an adorable historical romance.
Edwina Dalrymple lives on the fringes of London society. The illegitimate daughter of an Earl who has no desire to claim her, she's made her living as an etiquette governess, one charged with teaching young charges the in's and out's of London's ton in order for them to make the best first impressions.
But when Edwina is hired by the Duke of Bentley to bring his illegitimate son, Rafe Audley, back into the London fold after being raised in the miner's community of the English countryside... Edwina realizes she might have bitten off more than she could chew.
Despite their similar life experiences as both being bastard-born, Rafe and Edwina have very different options on London's wealthy upper class and how it affects them.
Rafe Audley has no intention of leaving his life as a mining foreman and becoming a Duke's son. He's thirty-one and he's happy with his lot in life.
But Edwina can't let that stand—she's being paid a lot of money to secure his return to London society, and Edwina's future is at stake as her entire career is based on previous employer references.
Edwina needs to get him to London. Rafe swears that will never happen.
Cue the shenanigans.
I thought Along Came a Lady was cute, filled with commentary on birthrights and the hypocrisy of London's upper society, and surprisingly fun to read. Edwina and Rafe played the grouchy/sunshine trope to perfection and I loved all of their interactions. Would I read a sequel on them? YES!
My one caveat was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt... I wanted more of a conclusion/epilogue than the abrupt happy ending that we got. It was great, I just wanted to see them... enjoy that moment beyond the page. But overall, extremely cute and a great historical romance for fans of the genre.
Thank you to Berkley Romance for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Another hypnotic, unstoppable novel from an author who can seemingly tackle any genre. Crime noir, interesting characters, and a plot that moves at the pace of a snail and yet captivates your attention. A very interesting read.
Happy Publication Day!
Velvet Was the Night is a study in interesting contradictions wrapped around a "true horror story," as the author herself notes in her afterword. I found it to be utterly compelling even despite of a few personal quirks.
Maite is a 30-year-old woman in 1970s Mexico City. She lives in an apartment that she can't really afford, she works as a dictation secretary in a law office she doesn't like, and she's desperate for love and yet unwilling to open herself up to the possibility of finding it.
She's not a likeable character, to be honest. But I didn't care--she was interesting. And interesting people are more fun to follow within a story.
When her neighbor, the beautiful and artistic Leonara, asks Maite to watch her cat while she leaves town for a few days, Maite reluctantly agrees. Maite has no idea how that one decision will change her life.
Leonara doesn't return. And things in Mexico City are about to boil over into a political nightmare with Maite, of all people, somehow at the center of the story.
Entwined with Maite's story is the story of Elvis, a young man working for the Hawks, a shady, guerilla/gangsterized form of enforcers operating in the shadows of the current Mexican regime. Elvis fell into the line of work when his petty thieving brought him to the attention of the wrong people, and now he's embroiled in the drama whether he wants to be or not. And Elvis isn't quite sure these days.
As Maite's and Elvis' lives meld into one noir narrative bubbling with intrigue, Velvet Was the Night embarks on a simmering adventure.
Now, I'm starting from a place of bias when I say that I love Silvia Moreno-Garcia already. I'm primed to—at a minimum—enjoy her work as I love her writing style and her way of delving into character development. This novel was no exception. I loved it too.
Velvet Was the Night was a different kind of Moreno-Garcia read, however, and I'm still chewing on the why. For one thing, it took Moreno-Garcia's already slowwww pacing and dialed it down even further. Which I didn't know was possible. Let's be honest: I struggled with the slowness of the pacing for the first half of the book because it was just that—tooooooo slowwwwww.
But then the simmering, never-at-rest and yet slow-as-heck vibe started to get to me. I was hooked, and even though I still wanted the ride to go faster, I was getting into it as a slow burn. Good synonyms for this story: simmering, digesting, creeping, enveloping. Slow and steady wins the RACE, y'all.
I also had a bit of a harder time with this novel as the characters weren't who I wanted them to be. I don't know why, maybe it's society's expectations or stereotypes of the genre or something else, but the fact that Maite and Elvis continued to thwart my expectations of them (sometimes even in negative ways) just really took me aback. Looking back on the reading experience, I liked that about the novel. But during the read I found it frustrating.
See what I mean? Contradictions. An odd, lingering, inescapable story. Another winner.
Silvia, what WILL you write next??? I am already waiting.
Thank you to Del Rey for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
I liked it, didn’t love it sadly. There were tropes in here that I should have known would bother me, and then they did—so this is definitely an example of "Amy should read the summary first" and not a problem of the book!
Steam factor: ★★★ (for Tessa, this was bland)
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
A quick disclaimer: I LOVE Tessa Bailey! This might have been a miss for me, but it was for personal, niche reasons and not for a poorly-executed story. This review is a little meh, a little gripe-y, and overall lackluster. That was totally me not enjoying the tropes written on the tin and not a reflection on the book.
In Tessa Bailey's latest novel, It Happened One Summer, Tessa takes on some romance trope titans: the small-town coastal community, the "airhead, sheltered" main female character, and the trope of "finding true meaning in the simple life."
If it sounds like K.A. Tucker's The Simple Wild to you, then you'd be right. I would say that this novel follows a similar blueprint to K.A. Tucker with some different twists and a different ending of sorts (so for those who have read that one, I'm not spoiling this book by comparing the two).
In a bizarre move that sounds ridiculous as I type it out, I'm going to recommend this book by highlighting all of the things I didn't like about it... because I think this is the perfect romance for the right reader and it's just my cranky self that hates these things.
1.) If you loved The Simple Wild, you'll love this. Lots of similarities with enough unique twists to be a different reading experience.
2.) If you like the idea of your main character being a transplant into a community/situation/set-up where she is at a huge disadvantage and does not know how to cope and is constantly seen as the rich/spoiled/sheltered female, then you'll enjoy this setup of a Californian, rich social media influencer transplanted into this coastal Pacific Northwest town.
3.) If you like your romances with very little drama—and when it gets to the drama, it's of the low-stakes variety—then you'll love this story. This is a not an angsty ride through the trenches.
4.) If you're looking for a story that handles plot first, romance second, and sex third, then you'll enjoy this story. For Tessa, who is known for some steamy scenes and content, I thought this was... really tame. Not sure why. It was definitely a departure from her other work.
Overall, not for me, but I did think it was cute. I am interested in the next book in the series, as it sounds like the tropes are much more up my alley. We'll see!
Favorite in the series?? YES.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third and final book in the Brown sisters trilogy, but as it's a romance series, each book is a great entry point into the universe. I recommend this to series readers and new readers both.
Eve was the sister that I connected to the least in the first few books, so I was really interested to see how Talia Hibbert was going to take her story. Eve is the youngest sister, the one with the most interesting (cough cough, flighty) career backstory, and she's also the wild child of the family.
So when Eve's parents put their feet down and tell her she's got to settle down and stick with a job, Eve is NOT happy. She knows she's been riding the high of no consequences and no responsibilities for a while, but this was... harsh.
So Eve gets in her car and drives into the English countryside. She stops at a quaint town. She sees a "Cook Wanted" sign at a cute bed and breakfast, and she interviews on the spot.
Jacob Wayne is the owner of said bed and breakfast. A man with a steel-fisted sense of control and manuals on manuals to "How-To" his way to success, Jacob can't rationalize Eve. He also can't stop fixating on her. He turns her down for the job.
Then Eve runs him over in her car—by accident!!—and fractures his arm. Now Jacob has no choice: it's Eve or bust as he's approaching a festival deadline and he needs the help.
What will Eve, the purple-haired feisty wild child, and Jacob, the tight-laced buttoned up soul, do with each other??
Obviously fall in love.
Oh, oh, OHHHHHHH this was so. much. fun. I could not get ENOUGH of this story!
I laughed! I threw the book down due to secondhand embarrassment! I thought Eve and Jacob were precious! The autism rep! The conversations about love and intimacy! The sex!
Nothing negative. I don't have anything intellectual to say (sorry), I just have insane amounts of fangirl screaming to shout down the internet void at you, reading this review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.